How to Build an Upholstered Headboard

One of the easiest and most versatile ways to build a headboard is to use an upholstered design. Making a headboard means you can use it for any bed size you choose. Inexpensive to build, they can be put together in a weekend. Upholstered headboards can be covered with any type of fabric or leather to match your decor. This article will focus on building an upholstered headboard, the materials and tools needed, and the best way to install it.

The Upholstered Headboard

An upholstered headboard is a piece of wood cut to the desired shape. It needs legs to give it the correct height and fabric to cover it. Let's look at the tools we will need:

  • A sheet of 3/8" plywood
  • Two 1" X 6" boards for legs
  • Jig saw
  • Wood screws
  • Screwdriver or an electric drill
  • Staple gun
  • Fabric glue
  • Kraft paper
  • Scissors
  • Large sheet of old cardboard
  • Pencil or Magic Marker
  • Medium grit sandpaper
  • Material to cover headboard
  • A roll of cotton batting
  • Muslin to cover back
  • Ornamental braid or trim as desired

Let's Begin

First, carefully measure your headboard to the size you want, making sure it will clear pillows and decorative shams.

1. After you are certain of your measurements, carefully transfer these measurements to the Kraft paper. Tape the Kraft paper to a sheet of cardboard to ensure you have the desired visual effect. Cut out the design.

2. Tape the Kraft paper to the sheet of plywood and trace around the design with your pencil or Magic Marker.

3. Using the jig saw, cut out your design. Be sure to wear protective goggles and ear protection when performing this operation.

4. Sand all edges smooth.

5. Unroll the cotton batting and lay the headboard on top, cutting the batting with a 6" allowance all around.

6. Fold the batting over the edges of the headboard and staple it around the perimeter, being careful to not pucker the batting. A good way to do this is to begin at top center, and staple both ways about 6." Repeat at the bottom, then on to the sides.

7. With the cotton batting attached, it is time to install the fabric.Place the fabric right side down on the floor, and center the headboard on it. If the fabric has a pattern, make sure it is positioned the way you want it on the headboard.

8. Cut the fabric to fit the headboard, once again leaving a 6" allowance.

9. Fold the fabric over the headboard and staple it as before. Check to see that the design is straight after the top staples. If it is, finish stapling the fabric to the headboard.

10. Inspect your work, and if you are happy with it, apply the muslin backing. It should cover the fabric that has been stapled on, so add at least an inch to the muslin to fold over as a hem. Use the staple gun to attach it.

Putting It All Together

Now that the headboard itself is finished, it is time to attach the legs. Measure the total distance from the floor to the bottom of the headboard, then add 32" to determine the length of the legs.

Cut the legs and drill holes in them, then attach with wood screws, being careful not to go through the plywood.

You can install in one of several ways. You can let the headboard free stand, using the bed to stabilize it. You can also attach the headboard to the iron bed frame, drilling mounting holes in the legs and fastening with lag bolts and washers. Or, you can attach the headboard directly to the wall. Either way you do it, you have the satisfaction that you built it yourself, and it perfectly matches your decor.

Need more headboard ideas? Visit our bedding & headboard articles.
Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.